Death is Not the End – the conspiracy surrounding the deaths of John Bauldie and Matthew Harding

John Bauldie

I NEVER thought for one minute that a life-long obsession with music legend Bob Dylan would collide head on with my 30 year career as an investigative journalist.

But it has done… in the most unexpected way imaginable.

It is a story of a common love, friendship, a sudden and tragic death and an ongoing murder conspiracy.

A conspiracy which may touch the highest levels of British society.

My love and obsession with Bob Dylan has now spanned more than 40 years.

But it was back in 1987-88, while I was hospitalised in Cardiff with cancer, that a new world of Dylan was unexpectedly opened to me.

And with it an equally unexpected friendship.

To while away the hours and weeks of radiotherapy, my mother bought me a copy of Robert Shelton’s definitive Dylan biography No Direction Home.

I consumed the book in a couple of days. And while meandering through the appendices I noted mention of a quarterly Bob Dylan fan magazine, simply titled The Telegraph.

With an annual subscription of just £10, including delivery, I wrote off and subscribed to the magazine instantly.

And so began the expansion of my world of Bob Dylan and an enduring friendship with the magazine’s editor John Bauldie.

John was an ebullient personality, sometimes sounding dour with his native Lancashire drawl, but always enthused by anything to do with Bob Dylan and his hometown football team Bolton Wanderers.

And as a fellow journalist, we automatically had a lot in common.

John was one of the world’s foremost authorities on Dylan’s music. He wrote several key books on him as well as – since 1981 – editing and publishing the superb Telegraph.

Yet there was nobody less like the stereotyped “anorak” than John.

A former lecturer in English literature he was a dapper and cultured man, who brought a well-rounded intelligence to his quest.

His vocation was to amass the data and win for his hero the serious appraisal due to an outstanding 20th century performer.

He only met Dylan once, and that was by accident.

Following a US tour, he was passing the singer’s tour bus when Dylan sauntered out.

The two men held a brief and genial conversation, in the course of which John won a much prized endorsement for his magazine.

“The Telegraph?” Bob murmured. “I seen a few issues of that. It’s pretty interesting.”

That was all the recognition that John required.

Then in 1987 – coinciding with our first contact – he left his teaching days behind him and joined the small team at the newly-launched Q magazine, as a sub-editor.

Meanwhile, I quickly became a regular contributor to The Telegraph and would often engage in long telephone conversations with John at his home in Romford, swapping his immense knowledge of Dylan with my suggestions for magazine lay-out, typography and style.

He seemed like a god to me and was always the first person I turned to for tickets to Dylan gigs – usually after he broke the news of the great man’s next tour.

John loved to travel with his longstanding partner, Penny Garner, and would invariably plan his year around Dylan’s interminable tour itineraries.

And he always cut a memorable figure at those gigs. You’d spot him, immaculately turned-out in his camel-hair coat as he shared his insights and a few drinks with fellow fans.

And it was wholly due to John that I joined him on a flight to Brussels in the summer of 1989 to follow Bob Dylan around Europe, and witness Dylan’s greatest gig at the Statenhal in Den Haag.

When I moved to Scotland in late 1990 to begin a full-time job as a newspaper editor, our telephone conversations became less frequent, but we still had time to meet for a chat before Dylan’s gigs at Glasgow’s SECC in February 1991.

And my quarterly copy of The Telegraph still arrived promptly every three months.

So, it was in total shock and disbelief when I discovered that John, aged just 47, had been killed in seemingly freak helicopter crash in Cheshire.

It was the same crash which killed Chelsea multi-millionaire vice chairman Matthew Harding and three other people on 22 October 1996.

Harding had given John a lift in his private helicopter to watch his love Bolton Wanderers, defeat Chelsea in a Coca-Cola cup tie at Burnden Park.

Ironically it was their mutual love of Bob Dylan which first brought John and Matthew Harding together.

Some months later I wrote to John’s widow Penny, expressing my condolences and deep sadness at John’s death.

Penny replied almost immediately and I have treasured her hand written letter for the past 20 years.

And there my grief and memory of John Bauldie should have remained.

But, last month my investigative senses were stimulated by a chance conversation with another Dylan fanatic at record fair in my local town.

He told me that Penny had died homeless and destitute a few years after John’s tragic death, and both their deaths were not as they might seem.

On arriving home I quickly found online a copy of the official report into the helicopter crash which took John’s life.

The report, dated November 1997, said that the pilot of the twin-engined French Aerospatiale AS 355F1 Squirrel had neither the qualifications nor experience to control the aircraft after it got into difficulties.

Michael Goss, 38, had gone off route on the night of the crash and headed for an area of high ground which a weather forecaster had advised him to avoid.

The report said that after taking off from Bolton after the match, the flight had to operate below an overcast cloud layer which was below the minimum safe en-route altitude.

But, 20 years later there are now allegations that Matthew Harding and his fellow passengers died, not because of an incompetent helicopter pilot, but because of their knowledge of police and local council corruption in property development schemes within the London Borough of Havering.

And it was the friendship between Harding, John Bauldie and his partner Penny, which now may explain the conspiracy surrounding their deaths.

Penny Garner was a Biology lecturer at Havering College of Further and Higher Education – not far from her and John’s home in Romford.

She prepared her students for their A-levels and future careers in Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Industry.

During the mid 1990s Penny witnessed criminal issues at the college, created in a failed attempt to close the college for property development.

She struggled with these issues not least due to the wayward management of a faculty head who failed to deal with staff who had purchased a machine gun with live ammunition on college premises.

The machine gun was fired on college grounds with a resulting flood of calls to Havering police.

The college had a large number of students from Irish backgrounds and with the Northern Ireland troubles still flaring many feared there might be links to IRA terrorism.

But witnesses later swore that a Conservative councillor encouraged the sale of the machine gun at the college, via a third party intermediary resident in Lake Rise, Romford.

The gun was later resold, by a science technician in Penny’s faculty, who was encouraged by a well-known local Tory activist involved in the property development plans.

Allegations soon surfaced that the firearms sales, random assaults and thefts were part of a dirty tricks campaign by local Conservative activists and councillors in attempt to close the college.

There were further allegations that their friends in the local police had full knowledge of this campaign.

Penny made John aware of these events.

John and his editorship of The Telegraph was already being investigated without just cause in an attempt to find “dirt” against those opposing the closure of the college for property development.

The corruption involved was such that the attempt to close the college was stopped for fear of official enquiries into the conduct of the Romford, Hornchurch and Upminster Conservative Parties and associates in Havering Borough Police station.

Shortly before his death, John told Matthew Harding about the events at the college. Matthew Harding took a keen interest to find out more and promised to look into the matter.

Harding also had a political axe to grind as he disliked the Conservative Party and recently donated funds to Tony Blair and New Labour.

But the conspiracy gets deeper…

Just two years ago it came to light that murdered BBC Crimewatch host Jill Dando had been probing the death of Matthew Harding and his four friends.

Ms Dando was gunned down on her doorstep in Fulham, south-west London, in April 1999. The killer has yet to be caught, but much evidence points to police, MI5 and political corruption at the highest level.

“Jill told me she was investigating the death of her friend Matthew Harding and money laundering claims,” said a BBC colleague.

“She was killed after ignoring two warnings to back off.”

The source claims Harding first told a friend, Irish investigative journalist Veronica Guerin, about his fears about corruption and money laundering over property developments.

But Ms Guerin was then murdered in 1996 while working on a drugs inquiry in Dublin.

A panicked Harding then repeated his concerns to BBC journalist Ms Dando.

He died just four months later.

The source added: “Jill told me she had begun investigating Matthew’s death and the concerns he had shared with her.

“Somebody tried to warn her off but she persisted in her inquiries.”

The conspiracy remains unsolved, but as someone once said: “This can of worms only opens from the inside”.

Watch this space!

To Live Outside the Law, You Must be Honest

WP_20160610_001

MY one-way love affair with the greatest and most profound poet of my generation is without doubt obsessive.

And  it now borders on criminal.

So how did I come to live outside the law?

There lies a small story…

I’ll take you back to 1973… the hippy summers of love, acid overdoses and flower garlands were long past, and glam rock ruled.

Loon leg flares, penny collar shirts, Slade, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, T Rex and Top of the Pops were the now magnets for us Baby Boom kids.

And as a music mad teenager, I had already found Bowie and hid a guilty pleasure for also liking Marc Bolan.

But my real love was just about to be discovered.

A fellow student in my sixth form was a Bob Dylan fanatic – he even had hair like him and was forever being reprimanded by teachers for not wearing a tie and wearing baggy, non-regulation jumpers.

One day I asked him why he was so obsessed with Bob Dylan?

His blue eyes sparkled as my question registered and with unexpected enthusiasm he sat down and regaled me about the ‘greatness’ of Mr Dylan.

The next day he leant me Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits on vinyl LP and suggested I should get a copy of Blonde on Blonde to discover the real Dylan.

I was bemused, but eager to listen and so began my journey.

First, I bought a copy of More Bob Dylan Greatest Hits simply because the 21 tracks double album seemed like good value. Then I sought out a copy of Blonde on Blonde, which I had to order from my local record store as it had been released some seven years earlier, and was out of stock!

A week or two later, CBS suddenly released Dylan’s film soundtrack album Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid and the single Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door made the UK charts!

So armed with two double albums, plus the Heaven’s Door single I was beginning to discover Dylan… and it didn’t take long before I was hooked. His voice like sand and glue and words of truthful vengeance had me pinned to the floor, and like those before me I started to dissect his lyrics and find a new meaning to living.

More Greatest Hits was a delight. From Watching the River Flow to Crash on the Levee I was entering into his world of music and poetry.

I spent the rest of my sixth form and university years buying up Dylan’s back catalogue of albums on cassette tape and allowing his music and words to become the soundtrack to all I did.

Another Side of Bob Dylan and The Times They are a Changin’ led me to discover folk music and in turn Fairport Convention, while the awesome Planet Waves and Desire wrapped me up in stories, vignettes, lyrics and emotion I had never previously known.

Concerts came and concerts went, but the official CBS records and tapes were never enough to satiate my hunger.

Then during 1987-88, while I was hospitalised in Cardiff with cancer, a new world of Bob Dylan was unexpectedly opened to me.

To while away the hours and weeks of radiotherapy, my mum bought me a copy of Robert Shelton’s definitive Dylan biography No Direction Home.

I consumed the book in a couple of days. But it was while meandering through the appendices that I noted mention of a quarterly Bob Dylan fan / information magazine, simply titled The Telegraph.

With an annual subscription of just £10, including delivery, I wrote off and instantly subscribed to this gem.

And so began the expansion of my world of Bob Dylan and an enduring friendship with the magazine’s editor John Bauldie.

The first edition of my subscription (the autumn 1987 issue) to The Telegraph arrived at my hospital bedside within a fortnight.

Soon I was scouring and digesting its every page… and the reams of small ads in its supplement.

One advert shouted out to me.

A Dylan collector in Denmark was offering for sale cassette tapes of his many concerts at just £1.50 a time!

Enthused, and bored by hospital and this bloody thing called cancer, I sent off for a list of the tapes this guy named Andy, had for sale.

Within a few weeks a parcel of 12 Bob Dylan concert tapes arrived in a protectively wrapped brown paper parcel.

With a set of fresh batteries for my Sony Walkman, I began to listen to these previously unknown jewels that had arrived.

These included the famed 1978 Blackbushe Aerodrome gig, the 1984 Wembley concert, some outtakes from Infidels, and six audience recordings from his ongoing 1987 tour.

The sound quality between the tapes varied greatly from crackly and poor to just amazing and crystal clear.

But I was hooked, delighted and so began my passion for collecting Dylan recordings, which has now lasted all my life.

Now like many Dylan fanatics, I own all of his 37 studio albums, 11 Live albums, 12 albums comprising the official The Bootleg Series, and too many compilation and greatest hits collections to mention.

And my bootleg CD collection (which replaced the tapes sometime in the 1990s) has grown in tandem with glistening rarities that I once only dreamed of.

As I write this, I have just ordered from a fellow Bob Cat, a CD of previously unrecognised studio recordings from 1986.

It is due to arrive by the end of the week!

My passion is certainly an obsession… but a happy one.

But as a collector of bootleg recordings, am I breaking the law, and how legal is legal anyway?

And what exactly is a bootleg?

According to Wikipedia, the online fount of all knowledge: A bootleg recording is an audio or video recording of a performance that was not officially released by the artist or under other legal authority. The process of making and distributing such recordings is known as bootlegging.

Recordings may be copied and traded among fans of the artist without financial exchange, but some bootleggers have sold recordings for profit, sometimes by adding professional-quality sound engineering and packaging to the raw material.

Bootlegs usually consist of either unreleased studio recordings or live performances, with an unpredictable level of quality.

Changing technologies have impacted on the recording, distribution, and varying profitability of the underground industry. The copyrights for the song and the right to authorise recordings often reside with the artist, according to several international copyright treaties.

The recording, trading and sale of bootlegs continues to thrive, however, even as artists and record companies attempt to provide officially-released alternatives to satisfy the demand.

While, Wikipedia is, in essence correct, there is a lot more to the definition, the law and the practise of collecting bootleg CDs.

Bootleg is a term that is bandied about freely by many people to refer to a wide array of things.

Within the music industry, everything from the traditional bootleg, to pirates, to copies, to counterfeits have at one time or another been called a bootleg.

Most of the lay population use some or all of the terms above interchangeably.

But these terms are distinctive, and to live outside the law, you must be honest:

Copy

Once you become the legal user of copyrighted material (by purchasing a recording such as a CD), the material is yours to use and enjoy within the guidelines of the copyright.

The guidelines of the copyright, however, are extremely restrictive. It is generally accepted that the user should be allowed to make one copy or backup solely for her/his own use.

There is never permission to make more than one copy.  There is never permission to give, sell, or share this backup copy with another. This one (and only one) piece made for individual use is what the industry call a copy.

Pirate

If you choose to make more than one copy of copyrighted material, you have moved to this level. You have violated the copyright, and therefore, the law.

Whether you are making one or two copies to give to friends, or 50 copies to sell at a car boot sale, it is illegal.

These multiple illegal copies are what industry insiders refer to as pirates or pirate copies.

Counterfeit

While most of us would have to admit to at some point, knowingly or unknowingly, producing a pirated copy … no one has ever accidentally made a counterfeit.

As with counterfeit money, the term counterfeit refers to the exact duplication of an item. In terms of counterfeit CDs, this is exact down to the cover artwork.

These duplicates aren’t made by accident. They are made to deceive the public into thinking they are buying an original product when they are not.  Millions have been lost by musicians due to these practices. Everybody loses except for the individual thieves who pocket all of the profits.

Bootleg

Everything that you have read so far is what a bootleg is NOT.

Now, for what a bootleg is.

Copyrights work in many ways on many different levels. Once a song is completed it is automatically copyrighted. The fact that the writer put it down to paper or tape gives him/her an immediate copyright.

The copyright also gives the owner the right to profit from any commercial use of the song.

But a bootleg album or CD is one that has been created completely from material that is NOT commercially available, and therein lies the legal bypass of copyright.

The material might be from an interview, radio broadcast, recording from a live concert, studio outtake tapes etc.

The bootlegger will take this material and affix it to a record or CD album to be distributed in very small quantities. Sometimes as many as a thousand … sometimes as few as a hundred or less.

The releases are not going to be mass marketed … they’re only intended for a handful of collectors worldwide.

Collectors who are usually so dedicated to the artist they collect that they will surely own every commercially available piece offered by the artist.

As in the examples of Bob Dylan’s Royal Albert Hall concert, or the Basement Tapes, if a bootleg item is ever released officially, the bootleg collector will be the first person in line to pay money for the released version.

For the most part, we are talking about recordings that would never see the light of day any other way.

The major labels could never afford to release all of this material that would only interest a handful of fanatical fans worldwide.

Although in the case of Bob Dylan, his record label has in the past 25 years seen the light and began slowly to release the official Bootleg Series of albums. To date 12 such titles have been released, but often, as is the case of the most recent one The Cutting Edge, in highly priced packages of multiple CDs – the 18 CD option cost £640!

Generally, the only alternative to real bootlegs is for the performances to be forever lost.

Looking back to the roots of blues, jazz, country, and rock music; there are multiple thousands of lost performances and artists that we will never hear.

I any case, most bootleg collectors only ever trade their CDs with other collectors and rarely buy or sell.

This past week I have updated my collection of some 230 bootleg Bob Dylan albums with a rare double CD – a live recording from Seattle in January 1980, which until recently Dylan enthusiasts believed did not exist.

I have also added an amazing collection of 14 soundboard CDs from his 1965 concerts and a similar 14 CD boxed set of soundboards from 1978-81… the recording quality is astounding.

But while in the past 25 years I have spent well over £1,000 on official Bob Dylan CDs, the cost of my 230 bootlegs has been a small fraction of that… maybe £200 at most.

The simple reason is, I have traded copies from my collection with other fanatics like me.

So is it illegal to own bootlegs? 

No.  You do not have to worry about the record police coming to knock on your door!

Is it illegal to sell a bootleg? 

If you are a private citizen and have one or two bootlegs in your collection and are ready to put them on the collectors’ market … don’t worry.  If you are thinking of going into business selling bootlegs, you had better consult a good lawyer!

Is it illegal to manufacture a bootleg? 

In the UK, yes it is! There is a multitude of differing laws in some parts of Europe (notably Italy and the Netherlands) and the USA. Most industrialised, capitalist countries have some type of law on the books regarding the copyrights of recorded music. However, some are lax and some are completely ineffectual.

So with all that in place, I reiterate Bob Dylan’s own words: to live outside the law, you must be honest.

Journey Through Dark Heat – Part 3 (1983-1988)

EBP_B465-30_Bob Dylan14

Standing on the waters casting your bread

While the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing

Distant ships sailing into the mist

You were born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing

Freedom just around the corner for you

But with the truth so far off, what good will it do?

 

I SIT here under a blue May sky ruminating about Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday, his longevity, his timeless brilliance and the many wonderful musicians we have lost this past year… and realise it is time once again to continue my own personal journey through dark heat.

Time is an ocean, so let’s travel on…

As the long hot summer of 1983 ventured into autumn, word was coming from across the Atlantic that Dylan was jettisoning much of his gospel baggage and venturing down a new road – once again.

Certainly his so-called Musical Retrospective Tour of 1981 – which concluded in Lakeland on 21 November gave early indications of this variation of his journey.

So after taking a two year rest from the road, and with Dire Straits guitarist and producer Mark Knopfler at his side, on 27 October 1983, Bob delivered his 22nd studio album and his most accessibly commercial release to date: Infidels.

Infidels is still regarded as the first secular record Bob Dylan had recorded since Street Legal, filled with songs that are evocative in their imagery and direct in their approach.

Indeed, upon its release the album was immediately heralded as a return from born-again proselytizing, and began Dylan’s journey back toward mainstream music making — it would have surely been a stand-out all-time classic, but for some last-minute tinkering.

Two key songs were left on the cutting room floor as Dylan continued editing and re-recording Infidels, long after Knopfler had left to pursue his own separate musical interests.

The out-take Blind Willie McTell later gained a talismanic import among fans before finally appearing on 1991’s The Bootleg Series Vol 1-3.

The sessions also included Foot of Pride, a perfectly executed Dylan put-down about those trapped in ego. And the bouncing Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart was subsequently re-drafted for 1985’s Empire Burlesque.

In their place went Union Sundown, a much lesser effort, Sweetheart Like You, a wayward song of misogynism , License to Kill, and the now-expected album-closing paean to a lover, Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight.

Weaker than what may have been possible if he had included the outtakes, but still mesmerising – Dylan’s own flawed genius. Each tracks had a sleek approach that updated his sound without dismantling its foundational wit.

Credit there goes to Knopfler, and an all-star cast that included Mick Taylor, Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar — the latter of whom gave Jokerman its groove.

In manner and tone, that track connected back to the promise of Dylan’s mid-1970s work, and gave us the first concrete hint at the third-act successes to come beginning with 1989’s Oh Mercy.

But looking back with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight it is baffling that any critic can call Infidels a return to “secular recording” for Bob Dylan.

After three straight Christian albums, the record was certainly more broad in its horizons, at least when compared to its predecessor, Shot of Love or the second Born-Again album Saved, but its attitude is still as straightforward and uncompromising as Slow Train Coming.

But his lyricism here is more deliciously complex than on the three predecessors; a glance at Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight may suggest that it’s a simple song about sex, but it’s not, it’s much deeper and much more creative than that.

Jokerman boasts a reggae influence and Dylan’s alluring attempt to try and reveal false prophets, as he does elsewhere when he clearly states that sometimes Satan disguises himself as a Man of Peace.

The driving Neighborhood Bully pays homage to the rocking Shot of Love, but with a much more complex political message, unlike the straightforward social statements of License To Kill and Union Sundown. The second track Sweetheart Like You may have a clichéd title, but the content within is bursting with originality and mystery, much like I and I.

The different spiritual elements that make up Infidels would put many other artists in a creative whirl, but here Bob Dylan handles them all with integrity and delivers one of his most effective stand-alone albums.

At home this new album was played to exhaustion during the winter of 1983, punctuated only by the news that Bob would be doing a Europe only tour during the summer of 1984.

It would be a stadium tour and my first chance to see him live since that halcyon gig at Earls Court six years earlier.

On 21 May, 1984 in the low key city of Brno in Czechoslovakia, Dylan set-out on a 27 date tour, playing some of the biggest and best known European music venues including Ullevi Stadion in Gothenburg, Sweden, St James Park in Newcastle, Wembley Stadium and Slane Castle in County Meath, Ireland.

And so on Saturday 7 July, on a beautiful summer’s day, armed with two tickets and iconic T shirts, I drove with my kid sister Fiona, from our home in rural Herefordshire to the bustle and excitement of north London and Wembley Stadium.

What a day and what a concert it was to be.

It was Dylan’s biggest concert in England since the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival, and appearing before 72,000 people at London’s open-air Wembley Stadium on the evening of July 7th, turned it into one of the highlights of his performing career.

And I was there… standing near the front with my 17 year-old sister perched on my shoulders for much of the gig.

The show was Dylan’s penultimate appearance of the tour, and as he seemed positively relaxed, cheerfully greeting such old friends and musical colleagues as Mick Jagger, Mark Knopfler, Chrissie Hynde, Steve Winwood, Van Morrison and Eric Clapton.

But when Dylan danced out onstage later that evening, wearing a black frock coat and sporting dark sun glasses and a shock of wild, curly hair, he looked like nothing less than a holy man possessed.

And from the moment he and his band (ex-Faces’ keyboard player Ian McLagan, ex-Stone the Crows drummer Colin Allen, bassist Greg Sutton and  former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor) broke into an electrifying Highway 61, it was clear that Dylan was once again rockin’.

Moreover, his voice – full of passionate declamations and dramatic vocal leaps, and displaying an emotional palette that ranged from proud anger to unabashed tenderness – immediately brought his audience back to the days of Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde.

During his two-and-a-half-hour performance, Dylan sang twenty-five songs.

The first part of the concert included sensational renditions of three tracks from his Infidels album: Jokerman, I and I and License to Kill.

But Dylan and the band were most impressive in the way they gave new life to his older songs, turning Just like a Woman into a rollicking waltz, Simple Twist of Fate into a sensual rock samba, Every Grain of Sand into a haunted Basement Tapes meditation and Maggie’s Farm – with the rhythmic riff of Obviously Five Believers – into a sardonic and fierce protest song – now obliquely directed at then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He also performed three acoustic numbers: a gentle version of A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, a folk- and bluegrass-tinged rendition of Tangled Up in Blue and a searing reinterpretation of It’s Alright, Ma.

With only his guitar and harmonica, the 43 year-old Dylan somehow made the vast spaces of Wembley Stadium shrink into what seemed like an intimate circle around a campfire, as the crowd accompanied him in the refrains to each of these songs.

The audience continued to sing along when Dylan brought the band back to conclude the first part of the concert with an ecstatic version of Like a Rolling Stone.

For his encore, Dylan did three more acoustic numbers: Mr Tambourine Man, Girl From the North Country and It Ain’t Me Babe.

Then, thinking it was all over Fiona and I made our way to the exits, when suddenly from out of the wings, the band re-emerged, along with Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Chrissie Hynde, and the entire entourage proceeded to give a stunning performance of Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.

As if that wasn’t enough, Van Morrison joined everyone onstage and sang a soulful, unsurpassable version of It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, with Chrissie Hynde and Dylan providing backup vocals.

After receiving a thunderous ovation, Morrison left the stage, and the remaining musicians launched into high-powered performances of Tombstone Blues, the irrepressible Senor, The Times They are A-Changin’ and, finally, Blowin’ in the Wind.

Thousands of people danced, and matches were lit. A half moon appeared, and the summer stars twinkled in the sky above.

Speaking strictly for me, I could have died then and there in a pure bliss I would never find again.

In the words of my other muse, David Bowie that day was captured thus:

The Children of the summer’s end

Gathered in the dampened grass

We played Our songs and felt the London sky

Resting on our hands

It was God’s land

It was ragged and naive

It was Heaven

 

But this was Bob, back to his very best… a best we would not see live again for many years.

 

We heard the Sermon on the Mount and I knew it was too complex

It didn’t amount to anything more than what the broken glass reflects

When you bite off more than you can chew you pay the penalty

Somebody’s got to tell the tale, I guess it must be up to me

 

So go on, boys, and play your hands, life is a pantomime

The ringleaders from the county seat say you don’t have all that much time

And the girl with me behind the shades, she ain’t my property

One of us has got to hit the road, I guess it must be up to me

 

And if we never meet again, baby, remember me

How my lone guitar played sweet for you that old-time melody

And the harmonica around my neck, I blew it for you, free

No one else could play that tune, you know it was up to me

A surprise live album Real Live was released in the winter of 1984 which documented Dylan’s European  summer.

Six songs from the album were recorded from that Wembley performance, two songs were recorded at St James Park on July 5 and another two from Slane Castle, Ireland.

Although I have since acquired a wonderful bootleg CD of the entire Wembley gig, Real Live was to remain for many years my only tangible record of that wonderful day in July 1984.

Back home, the next four years were to be punctuated by a new Dylan album almost every year: the commercially quirky Empire Burlesque (1985), the curate’s egg of Knocked Out Loaded (1986), the live video with Tom Petty Hard to Handle (1986), the movie soundtrack Hearts of Fire (1987) the forgettable Down in the Groove (1988) and the live Dylan and the Dead (1989).

But while Dylan was being profligate in his recording and commercial releases, one thing appeared clear during the late 1980s, the quality of his work was suffering, and creativity had exited stage left.

But it was during 1987-88, while I was hospitalised in Cardiff with cancer, that a new world of Bob Dylan was unexpectedly opened to me.

To while away the hours and weeks of radiotherapy, my mum bought me a copy of Robert Shelton’s definitive Dylan biography No Direction Home.

I consumed the magnificent book in a couple of days. But it was while meandering through the appendices that I noted mention of a quarterly Bob Dylan fan / information magazine, simply titled The Telegraph.

With an annual subscription of just £10, including delivery, I wrote off and subscribed to this gem instantly.

And so began the opening up of my world of Bob Dylan and an enduring friendship with the magazine’s editor John Bauldie.

The first edition of my subscription (the autumn 1987 issue) to The Telegraph arrived at my hospital bedside within a fortnight.

Soon I was scouring and digesting its every page… and the reams of small ads in its supplement.

One advert shouted out to me. A Dylan collector in Denmark was offering for sale cassette tapes of his many concerts at just £2 a time!

Enthused and bored by hospital and this bloody thing called cancer, I sent off for a list of the tapes this guy called Andy, had for sale.

Within a few weeks a parcel of 10 Bob Dylan concert tapes arrived in a protectively wrapped brown paper parcel.

With a set of fresh batteries for my Sony Walkman, I began to listen to these previously unknown recording jewels that had arrived.

These included the famed 1978 Blackbushe Aerodrome gig, the 1984 Wembley concert, some outtakes from Infidels, and six audience recordings from his ongoing 1987 tour.

The sound quality between the tapes varied between crackly and poor to just amazing and clear.

But I was hooked, delighted and so began my passion for collecting Dylan recordings, which has now lasted all my life.

 

Look out across the fields, see me returning

Smoke is in your eye, you draw a smile

From the fireplace where my letters to you are burning

You’ve had time to think about it for a while

 

Well, I’ve walked two hundred miles, now look me over

It’s the end of the chase and the moon is high

It won’t matter who loves who

You’ll love me or I’ll love you

When the night comes falling from the sky

 

I can see through your walls and I know you’re hurting

Sorrow covers you up like a cape

Only yesterday I know that you’ve been flirting

With disaster that you managed to escape

 

I can’t provide for you no easy answers

Who are you that I should have to lie?

You’ll know all about it, love

It’ll fit you like a glove

When the night comes falling from the sky

 

The late 1980s may have been a washout for Dylan’s creativity, but for me it was a New Morning and a herald of a new dawn.

The combined miracles of The Traveling Wilburys, Oh Mercy, following my hero around Europe, and meeting him face to face was just around the corner.

But that is a story for the next episode of this personal journey through dark heat.

To be continued…

Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism

AN excellent analysis of Bob Dylan and his faith by Jeff Taylor – first published in CounterPunch on 25 November 2015.

 BOB Dylan has made a reappearance in the public eye this past year with the release of his album Shadows in the Night and the issuing of a set of outtakes from his classic mid-1960s LPs.

The state of Israel—situated in the Middle East, allied with the U.S. government, idolized by millions of American Christians, and at odds with most of its neighbors—has been in the news virtually non-stop since 1967.

Given Dylan’s identity as a famous Jewish American with a reputation for lyrical sociopolitical commentary, is there confluence? Do Dylan and Israel intersect?

Christian Zionism is a mixture of theology and ideology in which evangelical Protestants support the modern nation-state of Israel. More specifically, Christian Zionists support the Israeli government in its hawkish foreign policy and domineering domestic policy. Christian Zionists in the United States have difficulty discerning a difference between the national interests of the U.S. and those of Israel. In practice, the two are merged and support for Israeli interests becomes a test not only of sound U.S. policy but also of loyalty to God. Identification of born-again Christians with Israeli politicians and the Israeli military is of relatively recent origin. It was intertwined with Cold War ideology in the 1960s and 1970s but has its roots further back in dispensational premillennial theology.

Part of the late 1970s evangelical revival in the U.S. was a growth of Zionism among American Christians. It dovetailed with the migration of millions of ex-passive and ex-Democratic voters into the hawkish Republican Party. It was also connected with the popularity of Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth, which depicted Israel and the communist Soviet and Chinese governments as military opponents in the soon-to-occur Battle of Armageddon. Hence politics and religion, nationalism and exegesis, were combined into a potent movement. The Moral Majority of Jerry Falwell and the 700 Club of Pat Robertson were two institutional manifestations of this movement.

This was the national religious context at the time Bob Dylan was converted to Christ in 1978-79. It would have made some sense if he had become a new leader of the Christian Zionist movement. He is Jewish. Even before his conversion, he believed in God and was familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures. In Hibbing, Minnesota, his parents were leaders in the local Hadassah (a women’s Zionist organization) and B’nai B’rith. He spent some of his boyhood summers near Webster, Wisconsin, attending Herzl Camp, a Jewish summer camp with a Zionist focus. He visited Israel in the early 1970s. He was interested in End Times prophecy and embraced the premillennial dispensational interpretation of Lindsey. And yet Dylan did not become a leading Christian Zionist. Why not? There are three reasons.

Dylan’s newfound Christianity was in many ways less-culture-bound than the average American evangelical at the time (partly because it was new and he approached the Bible with the fresh eyes of a convert). The type of Christianity to which Dylan belonged during his early months as a believer was the latter-day Jesus Movement. The Jesus People had a Christ Against Culture theological ethic which meant that they strived to be less culturally-co-opted (worldly) than mainstream Christians in America. Of course, the Jesus People had their own cultural traits but support for the Israeli government and support for Cold War militarism and U.S. imperialism were not among these traits.

A second reason that Dylan did not go the route of Christian Zionism is that he had a more-spiritual, less-politicized understanding of Bible eschatology (study of the Last Things or End Times). The late nineteenth-century/early twentieth-century theological movement known as dispensational premillennialism is often credited or blamed for post-1967 Christian Zionism among American evangelicals. But this is not accurate. The Scofield Reference Bible has little to do with the devotion to the Israeli government—mostly to the Likud Party—that is so prevalent among evangelical Christians belonging to the Republican Party.

From the perspective of Bob Dylan and similar premillennialists, C.I. Scofield and the dispensationalists (including Lindsey) were correct in saying that God has not forgotten his promises to the Jewish people. The Old Testament promises cannot simply be spiritualized or applied to the Church. That is too self-serving and not faithful to the scriptural record. Israel as an ethnic and historical entity did not disappear with the first advent and promises given to Israel did not simply vanish. Traditionally, Christians believe that in the Last Days there will be a consummation of those promises in a way that includes not only the Church but also Israel. Dylan and other believers think that Jesus Christ will reign from Jerusalem but it will not be a specifically Jewish kingdom. It will be a universal Kingdom that includes the believing remnant of Israel. According to Revelation—one of Dylan’s favorite books—the New Jerusalem will bear the names of the twelve apostles of Christ and the twelve tribes of Israel.

A.C. Gaebelein was a consulting editor for the original Scofield Reference Bible (1909), a contributor to The Fundamentals (1910-15), and a prominent Bible teacher at premillennial conferences. He was an evangelist to Jews in New York City and was very pro-Jewish in the sense of having a love for Jewish people. He was knowledgeable in Hebrew, was an Old Testament scholar, and edited Our Hope, a Bible prophecy magazine that looked forward to God’s eventual restoration of the Jews to Palestine. However, unlike fellow dispensationalist William Blackstone, Gaebelein “consistently warned against alliance with the Zionists.” In 1905, he wrote, “Zionism is not the divinely promised restoration of Israel . . . [It] is not the fulfillment of the large number of predictions found in the Old Testament Scriptures, which relates to Israel’s return to the land. Indeed, Zionism has very little use of argument from the Word of God. It is rather a political and philanthropic undertaking. . . . The great movement is one of unbelief and confidence in themselves instead of God’s eternal purposes.”

Gaebelein exemplified a type of premillennial eschatology that had apolitical or anarchistic implications. As George Marsden notes, “Premillennialism taught that no trust should be put in kings or governments and that no government would be specially blessed by God until the coming of the King who would personally lead in defeating the forces of Satan.” This perspective not only dampened Gaebelein’s enthusiasm for Zionism but it also led him to oppose U.S. involvement in World War I, in 1917, before he eventually succumbed to worldly pro-war jingoism.

Today, few Christian Zionists are taking their marching orders from the Scofield Bible. It is not a common item of study or interest. Dispensationalism is a small subsection of evangelicalism. Since the 1970s, far more evangelicals have been influenced by the teachings of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Paul Crouch, John Hagee, et al., than by C.I. Scofield, J.N. Darby, Lewis Sperry Chafer, John Walvoord, et al. It is true that the televangelists have embraced a watered-down version of dispensational eschatology, but even that was not handed down directly from Scofield. It is mostly just an emphasis on “Jesus is coming back soon. Israel’s re-founding in 1948 was a sign of the End. America must be Israel’s friend.” There is not much theology there.

For most evangelicals, glorification of the modern state of Israel comes much more out of a few verses in Genesis 12 than from the Day of the Lord chapters in Daniel, the rapture passage in I Thessalonians, or the tribulation/millennial chapters in Revelation. Even the Genesis passage is often a scriptural pretext for worldly geopolitics that centers on devotion to specific governments—namely, the United States and Israel. Whether in the context of the Cold War, the War on Terror, anti-Arab/Muslim sentiment, or Jewish ethnic (not religious) loyalty, this is more political than theological. God is being used in service to Country.

Modern Israel is not ancient Israel. Many Orthodox Jews opposed the pre-1948 Zionist movement because they believed that the re-creation of Israel must be effected by the Messiah himself. Israel is officially a Jewish state but this refers to ethnicity, not religion. Theodor Herzl (father of modern Zionism), Chaim Weizmann (founding president of Israel), and David Ben-Gurion (founding prime minister of Israel) were secularists if not atheists. They did not embrace the religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yet, blank-check support for the Israeli government is the norm among Bible-believing white Protestants.

The national anthem of modern Israel—and before that, the anthem of the Zionist movement, adopted by the First Zionist Congress in 1897—is “Hatikvah” (The Hope). Its lyrics are secular, with no mention of God, Abraham, Moses, or the Torah. The song uses the biblical word Zion twice but, removed from its context and divorced from God, its meaning has lost its spiritual dimension. The Zionist/Jewish folk song “Hava Nagila” is also secular.

Even when the ancient Hebrew governments were officially linked to Judaism, unthinking support for political leaders was folly, with the prophets being a continual reminder of this fact. After the united kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon split into southern and northern kingdoms, the majority of the subsequent rulers were bad, according to Scripture. In Judah, 10 of the 18 kings “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” The track record in Israel was even worse: 19 of the 19 kings were evil. It is unclear why Jews or Christians should assume that Begin or Netanyahu are any better than these ancient rulers.

When talking about his Jewish roots with Martin Keller in July 1983, Dylan said, “I ain’t looking for them in synagogues with six pointed Egyptian stars shining down from every window, I can tell you that much.” Dylan apparently views the Star of David as a pagan or occult symbol rather than a biblical symbol of the historical King David. The Star of David was the symbol of the Zionist Movement, beginning in the 1890s, and was placed on the flag of Israel when the modern state began in 1948.

Dylan’s views on peace and international relations are partly motivated by his understanding of eschatology. When it was released in 1983, “Neighborhood Bully” was widely seen as a pro-Israeli-government song and it fueled speculation that Dylan had returned to Judaism. This appears to be an incorrect interpretation. In a 1984 interview, Dylan said, “You can’t come around and stick some political-party slogan on it [the song]. If you listen closely, it really could be about other things.” He claimed ignorance regarding Israeli politics. Asked if he had resolved for himself the Palestinian question, Dylan said, “Not really, because I live here.”

Dylan suggested that the song was referring to Israel during the days of the future Battle of Armageddon rather than to the current Israeli government. Quoting the lyrics of “Neighborhood Bully,” Kurt Loder of Rolling Stone asked Dylan if he felt that the U.S. should send troops to help Israel in the Lebanon War (1982-85). Dylan responded, “No. The song doesn’t say that.” Loder asked if the American Jewish community should be more supportive of Israel. Dylan refused to identify with contemporary political Zionism, saying, “You’re making it specific to what’s going on today. But what’s going on today isn’t gonna last, you know? The battle of Armageddon is specifically spelled out: where it will be fought and, if you wanna get technical, when it will be fought. And the battle of Armageddon definitely will be fought in the Middle East.”

Despite his much-publicized visit to Israel in 1971, this 1984 distancing of himself from political Zionism was nothing new for Dylan. In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War (1973) between Israel and Arab states, rumors circulated that Dylan’s 1974 tour with the Band was a pro-Israeli effort. The rumor was unfounded. After a concert in Atlanta, Governor Jimmy Carter hosted a party for Dylan and his entourage. Carter brought up his own visit to the Holy Land a couple years before. He later recalled, “When I mentioned Israel, Dylan changed the subject and said he and his wife had recently been to Mexico and had enjoyed that country, too.”

“Neighborhood Bully” appears on Infidels. The inner sleeve of that album features a photograph of Dylan kneeling on the Mount of Olives above Jerusalem. The Old Testament book of Zechariah prophesies that the LORD, in the person of the Messiah, will stand on the Mount of Olives during the Battle of Armageddon. Not only will God come to rescue his people but he will be accompanied by “all the holy ones [saints].” This leads to God becoming “king over all the earth.” This passage is paralleled by the New Testament book of Revelation. The Mount of Olives imagery and the Rolling Stone interview indicate that “Neighborhood Bully” had less to do with the current Lebanon War and more to do with the future Battle of Armageddon.

Dylan’s son-in-law, singer Peter Himmelman, is a Zionist. Supporting Israel’s widely-perceived disproportionate military response against Hamas and civilians in Gaza, Himmelman directly rejected Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. He told a reporter, “For Jews, turning the other cheek is a sin.” His pro-Israeli-government song “Maximum Restraint” was reminiscent of “Neighborhood Bully” in its biting tone but was clearly about contemporary events, not about the coming Day of the LORD prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures.

A third reason that Dylan did not go the route of Christian Zionism is that he remained an anarchist in his ideology after his conversion. As a Christian anarchist, he remained uninterested in human governments, elections, laws, and policies—even those of the Israeli government. He recognized his Hebrew heritage and paid homage to the heroes of Israelite history but he was not interested in a movement characterized by narrow ethnic identity and the power of government. Entering into Christianity through the latter-day Jesus Movement, Dylan shares not only the movement’s American counterculturalism and premillennial eschatology but also its anarchism, which serves as a counterweight to politically-minded Zionism.

Dave Kelly, Dylan’s personal assistant in 1979-80, recalls the singer’s dealings with the Lubavitch (Chabad) group from Brooklyn. Kelly recalls, “I saw when the rabbis first were sent to him—[they] were the cutting edge people in America, among the Orthodox Jews, and pretty much pulling the strings in Israel at the time. And he [Dylan] was very much against them at the time. He used to go to Israel himself, no security and just turn up, just wander around. . . . [But] he wasn’t pro-Israel [in a political sense] at all, that I can see. Not at all.” Kelly continues, “I know they had a lot of power in Israel, to move the election in favor of one politician over another. And I don’t think he [Dylan] liked that. And that sort of made him very resistant. Because these were just The Man again. Just the Jewish rabbi version of The Man. He was very, very resistant because he’s a rebel.”

It should go without saying that Dylan’s disinterest in political Zionism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism but it must be added because some—although not most—anti-Zionists are motivated by dislike or fear of Jews as a race of people. This motivation has often been exaggerated and exploited by supporters of militaristic Israeli governments, but it is a real motivation for some critics of the Israeli state. Anti-Jewish sentiment plays no role in Dylan’s rejection of the glorification of modern Israel. Not only is Dylan ethnically Jewish, but he has remained interested in this heritage following his embrace of evangelical Christianity. Becoming a Christian does not mean a rejection of one’s Jewish heritage since Christ himself and all of his original disciples were Jews.

Bob Dylan did not reject his Jewishness when he knelt before Yeshua, whom he saw as the Jewish Messiah. From a spiritual point of view, Dylan did not see Christianity as a rejection or replacement of his Jewishness. He saw it as a completion or fulfillment. From the perspective of traditional Judaism, this is a patronizing or insulting thing to say but it is, nonetheless, the perspective of Jesus and the first-century Jews who followed him. This is the teaching of the New Testament, which was composed almost entirely by Jewish writers. Dylan’s 1980 gospel album Saved featured Jeremiah 31:31 on the inner sleeve: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” It is significant that he chose a Bible passage that bridges the gap between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, between Judaism and Christianity.

Since the early 1980s, Dylan has maintained some ties to the Orthodox Jewish community in the United States, but he has shown little interest in contemporary Israel. For him, the truths of Judaism are spiritual not political. In a 1984 interview, Dylan remarked, “I think politics is an instrument of the Devil. Just that clear. I think politics is what kills; it doesn’t bring anything alive.”

 

 

Broken Years

It’s been so many long and broken years

Since we were happy and our hearts were true

Once upon a time you told me, I was the man for you

 

Two souls sleeping side by side

Love was eternal and our lives sublime

But now the chasm has grown wide

I pray each night that there is still time

 

I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes

There are secrets in them I can’t disguise

I say to you now, if I ever hurt your feelings, I apologise

 

I haven’t seen my children in thirteen years

That’s not easy to understand

The pain runs deep and never leaves

Some things in life the heart cannot withstand

 

I think that when my back was turned

The whole world behind me burned

It’s been a while since I crossed that broken stile

 

My body is scarred and my thoughts bruised

Life is now in overdrive on an eastern cruise

The evil that men do will always break them apart

They die strangled by guilt with an iron heart

 

I cried on that cold and frosty morn

I cried because our souls were torn

So much for tears, so much for these long and broken years

 

Bob Dylan, Israel and the License to Kill

FRIENDS and regular readers of my blog know that I am a lifelong fan of musician and poet Bob Dylan… that will never change.

And neither will Dylan’s public vagueness about his personal politics.

Until now, that has on occasions bothered me.

Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941 to US Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, became a Born Again Christian in 1979.

But he has maintained his Jewish cultural traditions and has wavered over the years in his view of the Israel / Palestine conflict.

He has visited Israel a number of times – even played there in 2011, against the advice of some of his contemporary musicians – and wrote a song in 1983 called Neighborhood Bully, in which he defends the Zionist position.

Yet recently Dylan joined the world wide call for a boycott of Israeli goods, following the Gaza massacres in the summer of 2014.

I smiled deeply at this news.

But nothing quite prepared me for the following…

A controversy erupted on Israel’s Memorial Day this year, threatening to shatter national unity in Israel following the 2015 elections.

The Memorial Day ceremony at Oranim College in northern Israel included a reading of Bob Dylan’s song, Masters of War.

The song, it seems, caused strong resentment among Zionists. Students at the educational college claimed, that the song calls for the killing of IDF soldiers, and that it addresses them, specifically:

Come you masters of war You that build all the guns You that build the death planes You that build all the bombs You that hide behind walls You that hide behind desks

You fasten all the triggers For the others to fire Then you sit back and watch When the death count gets higher You hide in your mansion’ As young people’s blood Flows out of their bodies And is buried in the mud.

For me, like millions of others, Masters of War is a song of peace and a damnation to those who are behind all wars.

But to the Zionists in Israel, Dylan’s words are a direct attack on Israel and his Jewish forefathers!

In a twist of irony the online +972 magazines now states: “If you really love Israel, boycott Bob Dylan… dig a little deeper and find that ‘the voice of a generation’ is more anti-Israel than you ever could have imagined.”

Just amazing!

So with the conflict across the border in Syria now raging, I give you one of Bob Dylan’s more recent anti-war songs, one that resonates so strongly at the moment:

License to Kill

Man thinks ’cause he rules the earth he can do with it as he please And if things don’t change soon, he will Oh, man has invented his doom First step was touching the moon

Now, there’s a woman on my block She just sit there as the night grows still She say who gonna take away his license to kill?

Now, they take him and they teach him and they groom him for life And they set him on a path where he’s bound to get ill Then they bury him with stars Sell his body like they do used cars

Now, there’s a woman on my block She just sit there facin’ the hill She say who gonna take away his license to kill?

Now, he’s hell-bent for destruction, he’s afraid and confused And his brain has been mismanaged with great skill All he believes are his eyes And his eyes, they just tell him lies

But there’s a woman on my block Sitting there in a cold chill She say who gonna take away his license to kill?

Ya may be a noisemaker, spirit maker Heartbreaker, backbreaker Leave no stone unturned May be an actor in a plot That might be all that you got ’Til your error you clearly learn

Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool And when he sees his reflection, he’s fulfilled

Oh, man is opposed to fair play He wants it all and he wants it his way

Now, there’s a woman on my block She just sit there as the night grows still She say who gonna take away his license to kill?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zP9OUNuUk4